Political ideas meant to provoke thought

Poli­tics as gym­nas­tics for ra­tio­nal­ists. No one one Less Wrong is quite sure why poli­tics is a taboo topic or how things got to be that way. What we do think we know is that poli­tics is a great way to bring out the ir­ra­tional­ity in peo­ple. So why not take ad­van­tage of that and use poli­tics as a way to mea­sure ra­tio­nal­ity? Since poli­tics brings out the most ir­ra­tional­ity, it should provide the strongest sig­nal. Since there aren’t use­ful ob­jec­tive met­rics of how a poli­ti­cal dis­cus­sion went, we’d have to use sub­jec­tive judge­ments by neu­tral third-party raters, kind of like they do in gym­nas­tics. (In the com­ment thread for this post, feel free to find fights that you have no dog in, im­pro­vise a ra­tio­nal­ity rubric, and grade par­ti­ci­pants ac­cord­ing to your rubric… let’s see how it goes.)

Be a sheep. This is prob­a­bly the ex­act op­po­site of what you were taught in your high school civics class. But if my friend Jane is more in­tel­li­gent, more in­formed, and less ide­olog­i­cal than I am, it seems like vot­ing how­ever Jane is go­ing to vote is a strict im­prove­ment over vot­ing how­ever I would naively. It also saves me time, and gives Jane an in­cen­tive to put even more time in to care­fully con­sid­er­ing poli­ti­cal is­sues since she now con­trols two votes in­stead of one. Done on a large scale, this could provide an in­ter­est­ing twist on rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy. Imag­ine a di­rected graph where each node rep­re­sents a per­son and an edge is di­rected from per­son A to per­son B if per­son A is auto-copy­ing per­son B’s votes. There’s a gov­ern­ment com­puter sys­tem where you can change the per­son you’re auto-copy­ing votes from at any time or over­ride an auto-copied vote with your own per­sonal guess about what’s best for so­ciety. Other than that, it’s di­rect democ­racy… all bills are put be­fore all cit­i­zens to vote on. Prob­lems this might solve:

  • Vot­ing as sig­nal­ing—a smaller por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion is ex­pected to fol­low poli­tics, so they have an in­cen­tive to un­der­stand is­sues in depth and make the right choice for so­ciety as a whole rather than sig­nal that they have some char­ac­ter­is­tic or an­other.

  • Lob­by­ing—I could con­figure my vot­ing so that I auto-copy the votes of a lob­by­ing watch­dog group when­ever it votes on any­thing, and fall back to my reg­u­lar rep­re­sen­ta­tive’s vote when the watch­dog group ab­stains. That would al­low me to se­lec­tively vote to pre­serve net neu­tral­ity while con­tin­u­ing to copy my reg­u­lar rep­re­sen­ta­tive’s votes on other is­sues.

  • Waste­ful poli­ti­cal dis­course in gen­eral. We don’t need ev­ery­one to be ob­ses­sively dis­cussing poli­tics the way they are cur­rently… a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of ten thou­sand smart neu­tral peo­ple is plenty. Spe­cial­iza­tion of la­bor FTW.

If Less Wrong thinks this “sheep” idea is a good one, next time there’s a ma­jor elec­tion in a coun­try with lots of LW users, we could have a gym­nas­tics tour­na­ment (see pre­vi­ous idea) and de­ter­mine a set of recom­men­da­tions for other users from that coun­try to vote with.
Cap­i­tal­ism as de­layed grat­ifi­ca­tion. De­bate rages end­lessly be­tween pure cap­i­tal­ists and those who want some so­cial­ism thrown in. The pure cap­i­tal­ists ar­gues that cap­i­tal­ism fosters in­no­va­tion and in­creases eco­nomic growth. The so­cial­ists point to the nega­tive effects of in­equal­ity that they say cap­i­tal­ism causes. My com­pro­mise: let’s stick with cap­i­tal­ism for a while longer and then switch to so­cial­ism when we can’t take it any more. The big­ger the pie the cap­i­tal­ists make, the more there will be to go around when we crank up the re­dis­tri­bu­tion. At a cer­tain point we hit diminish­ing re­turns for ad­di­tional in­no­va­tions and it makes sense to op­ti­mize for poor peo­ples’ qual­ity of life in­stead.
It’s not big vs small, it’s smart vs dumb. De­bate rages end­lessly be­tween pa­ter­nal­ist/​nanny state types who say peo­ple can’t be trusted to make de­ci­sions for them­selves vs peo­ple who are sick of gov­ern­ment in­terfer­ence and want to be able to make all of their de­ci­sions for them­selves. The cor­rect an­swer to this ques­tion de­pends on the com­po­si­tion of your gov­ern­ment. If the av­er­age gov­ern­ment offi­cial is smarter than the av­er­age mem­ber of the pop­u­lace, it’s po­ten­tially a win to have the gov­ern­ment make de­ci­sions for pop­u­la­tion mem­bers. Ex­am­ples of gov­ern­ment stu­pidity that liber­tar­i­ans like to talk up are just that—stu­pidity. If gov­ern­ment offi­cials were smart, the gov­ern­ment would prob­a­bly be less stupid (like in Sin­ga­pore). Un­for­tu­nately, the liber­tar­ian chant of gov­ern­ment stu­pidity ends up be­ing a self-fulfilling prophecy as smart peo­ple de­cide that the gov­ern­ment is lame and work in other ar­eas.